A huge scheme to redevelop Bootham Park Hospital has been dropped due to rising costs, YorkMix has learned.
The former psychiatric hospital, built by John Carr in the 1770s and Grade I listed, was given over to private developers Enterprise Retirement Living (ERL) two years ago.
It followed a failed campaign spearheaded by York Central MP Rachael Maskell and city council leaders to save the building and estate for the city.
But just seven weeks after receiving planning permission to turn Bootham Park Hospital into retirement complex, ERL has emailed stakeholders to say they have pulled out.
YorkMix has seen the email which says:
Whilst we’re delighted to have achieved planning for this scheme earlier this month, unfortunately due to significantly increased construction costs over the last couple of years, we have made the difficult decision that it is not commercially viable to proceed with the re-development of Bootham Park.
The 18-acre estate is still technically part of the NHS, being owned by government body NHS Property Services. It initially identified ERL as its “preferred purchaser” but ERL never bought the site, YorkMix understands.
Instead it acted as the NHS’s partner to develop the Bootham Park Hospital site. It drew up the now-abandoned plan to turn the site into an 172-unit residential community for older people.
It means the Bootham Park Estate is now back with NHS Property Services. It looks set to be marketed again by its agent, Savills.
Presumably it can now be marketed with planning permission included.
This marks another failure by NHS Property Services when it comes to Bootham Park Hospital. In 2019 it revealed talks had failed with its preferred bidder and that it had to re-market the site.
We have asked both NHS Property Services and Savills to comment.
We have also asked ERL for some more information.
‘Jewel in the crown’
The Grade I listed Bootham Park Hospital was purpose built as an asylum by celebrated York architect John Carr, and completed in 1777.
It became an NHS psychiatric hospital, but was closed suddenly in 2015 after the Care Quality Commission identified serious and life-threatening patient safety issues.
Thousands of people signed a petition launched by Rachael Maskell MP calling for the building and its grounds to be retained for use by the city.
Councillors and health leaders also called for it to be saved for York. And when the Department of Health put the site up for sale via NHS Property Services, they united to condemn the move.
ERL’s approved scheme would have seen the demolition of two Grade II listed ‘pauper wings’ – a moved opposed by heritage organisations and the council’s conservation architect, David Carruthers.
It would have ‘sensitively restored’ the historic hospital and restored the grounds, expanding their “recreational use and securing public access and ongoing maintenance”.
New 11-a-side and seven-a-side football pitches were to be created, and run by Bootham School.
The retirement complex was to feature a wellness centre, dining room, fruit and vegetable garden, a cinema room, a hobby room, games room, a library and lounges, an exercise studio, staff and guest accommodation, as well as a bistro which ERL said will be open to the public.
At a planning committee meeting last month, councillors voted to approve – but were divided on the proposal.
Cllr Michael Pavlovic said they were “custodians of the heritage of the city” and voted against the scheme.
But Cllr Paul Doughty said “this for me is probably the best we’re going to get”.